January 09, 2007


2000 - Etude 6 - 18x18

Thought I'd blog/visit the wax studio once more before moving on... wanted to point out that we see encaustic paintings all over the place now, but it's a recent phenomenon in the contemporary gallery setting. As recently as the mid 90's it was very difficult to find good reference material on encaustic painting as a fine art. The few websites I could find mostly featured slick looking color interactions that resembled greasy color smears. Jasper Johns was a role model and I read what I could find on his wax works. But mostly I learned by trial and error with materials found here and there on the Internet.

The one good reference site was R & F Paints and (I think) they still are the banner site for FAQs on the medium. However, I'm basically cheap and didn't want to sink big bucks in all their equipment and premixed wax/paints. They also sponsor workshops at their place and around the country... but I didn't bite. Sinopia was another good source of info and materials that actually had a forum going. I've no idea what their site is like today, but it was a good source of dry pigments and answers when I needed them. I got my wax from a place in San Francisco... probably lots more source sites out there now, but that's my data.

All this research really motivated me and I was anxious to give it a go. My equipment was old hotplates, cheap crockpots and found implements like cat food tins and butter knives which worked just fine... the techniques were trial and error and lead into a realm of manipulation that couldn't be reached with my other mediums. I especially enjoyed carving into the surface, filling scored lines with accent colors, scraping down to underpainting which showed up unpredictably. Couldn't do this on my canvas work.

When I had a body of work I felt pretty good about I found I had to explain to my galleries what an encaustic was. Consequently, if the gallerist didn't know much about it, potential buyers would understand even less. Most pieces eventually sold but they didn't snag the enthusiasm I'd hoped. About this time I noticed an ad in the back of ArtNews that a book was being written about encaustics and slides could be sent in and I did. Received a nice letter from Joanne Mattera wanting more info, studio pics, etc. I think my handicap was that encaustics were not my primary medium although she seemed to like the work. Whatever... mine didn't make the final cut for the book. --I really gotta get a good storyline to go with my art. No certified education, no NYC gallery, southern mommy married to the military, fercryinoutloud! How boring is that? And now slowly turning gray... geeze! ...S'okay. -- I bought her book, it's a good one, very timely, well written and featuring some really fine artists... of which I would have fit right in... but didn't.

But that's okay too... don't know if I could have sustained the momentum, what with the move to another state and all that goes on outside the norm. And lots was happening at that time... a real dip in family history. The ship has righted itself but life was a bitch (two bitches, actually) for a few years. It wasn't a good time to grab a shooting star... if indeed there was one passing by.

I still have a lot of wax and pigment taking up space, and as I mentioned... I'm very frugal.. So I feel I still have some wax works left in the ole gal. I'll think on it...


Steven LaRose said...

I'm tellin' yah. . . wow.
That is the sort of blog post that does so much more for me than any ole painting could do.

At first I thought: "Put that toxic shit away" and focus on what you have been working on this last year. But after reading this post I realise that you absolutely HAVE to spend a couple months working in enaustic. When I look back at your work recently it makes perfect sense.

Thanks for the being human.

Steven LaRose said...

enaustic? whats that?

KJ said...

Enaustic? That's a really bad result in the wax studio. Happened to me last time out. Glad you're human too, thanks for the boost!

Martha Marshall said...

Guess what I'm reading as I come down from a whirlwind of prep for 2 shows! Yep, Joanne's book. Kim Radatz brought it over the other day for me to drool over for a while. By the way, Lorrie has sold three of my 12" encaustics!! How incredible is that. So maybe people are starting to pay attention to the medium?

I'd love to get them out again, but right now am enjoying "faux encaustic" with all my different acrylic goops.

KJ said...

I will fer sure curl up with that book before I heat up the crock pots again. Need a fresh start, fresh ideas. Good to know Lorrie is still selling for you... out of her new location? Haven't been over to check it out. Faux Encaustic R Good! I've managed to come up with a pretty good look-alike technique but it doesn't have that yummy smell and no carving or shaving.

Tracy said...

Karen, I have been toying with experimenting with encaustics, so these posts have been great! I will check out those links.

I have some chunks of beeswax from our beehive and will try and incorporate those somehow. Any suggestions about how to do that would be great! Hope I don't start a fire:-)

KJ said...

Tracy, I would have loved to have a natural source for beeswax... just melt it down in a crockpot to separate any impurities. Then it's ready to go.

Rebecca Crowell said...

Your encaustics are beautiful!

I'm wondering what the differences are between encaustic and cold wax such as Dorlands Wax Medium..well obviously, HEAT. But I mean in the final texture and surface. I'm thinking that encaustic tends to end up thicker, more textured(?) I am a big consumer of Dorlands--have the gallon jug on my paintng table at all times. I love it! But I have wondered about encaustic. I did use it a bit in grad school (almost 25 years ago...) but I was not very well informed. (It sounds like there wasn't much info out then, so that might explain why.) I tried to use canvas so most of the paint eventually flaked off. Plus I started a small fire trying to melt the wax with a torch. I guess that was enough to discourage me!

Anyway--have you ever used cold wax, and if so any thoughts on how it compares to encaustic?

KJ said...

Rebecca, I've not used Dorlands so can't really comment on it. Bought a jar once but never got around to playing with it. I understand it's mostly a medium to mix with oil paints for a special, textural effect but you know more about that than I. I often mix oils with hot wax to achieve colors my limited supply of dry pigment doesn't provide. I enjoy the buffing process with a finished encaustic... don't know if that's part of the cold wax process or not.

I always use a panel surface, sometimes adhering canvas to it, but never canvas or paper alone... but I've seen others get away with it, don't ask me how! Torch fires sound like more excitement than I need... try a heat gun from HD, the kind that dissolves old paint for scraping from siding. It does the job without fire... so far.